Not the kind of coincidence you want to see too much

The community rink in Ross River had burned down

It’s the kind of coincidence you don’t want to hear about but what can you do?

If you’ll recall in my Feb. 25 column, I wrote about my own outdoor hockey playing memory. It was about playing in an outdoor community rink in Ross River, Yukon. I hadn’t thought much about it in the 36 years since it happened but the outdoor Heritage Classic was played in Calgary Feb. 20 and it prompted me to reflect on my own outdoor hockey experience.

Well, I was watching the Canucks-Calgary game on Saturday night and in between periods Ron Maclean of Hockey Night in Canada reported the sad news that the community rink in Ross River had burned down! By this time, of course, the community had an indoor rink and recreation centre that came about, at least partially, through the efforts of locally-stationed Mounties.

The loss to that small First Nations community is tragic, of course. The recreation centre served as a diversion from social problems that are sadly too common in remote northern communities.

Genesee Keevil of the Yukon News (where I worked for two-and-a-half years in the late eighties), reported: “By 4 a.m., flames were leaping from the building, considered by many to be the heart of the community.

“Standing outside at minus 35, the community gathered to watch the building burn.

“‘Everyone’s in shock,’ said Doreen Etzel, who works at the general store. ‘It’s especially bad for the kids, they lost all that hockey equipment and now they have nowhere to go at night.’ Above the rink, there was a drop-in centre where Ross River’s youth played pool, video games, watched movies and just hung out.”

Keevil later wrote: “And the arena – which was featured during Hockey Day in Canada – had just been renovated.

“Ross River’s RCMP detachment put hours of work into the rink, replacing the boards, grading the sand before the ice was laid, and painting the lines on the frozen surface.”

Hopefully, the community can get the facility rebuilt.

In the swim

Meanwhile, speaking of rebuilt facilities, my daughter and I took advantage of the free swimming on Saturday at the recently re-opened Strathcona Gardens pool.

It didn’t look much different other than the family change room wasn’t open yet and the men’s change room had been moved to where the women’s used to be and it’s smaller.

Which was interesting because these free days at the pool are hugely popular and the pool is jam packed. I’ve been to some New Year’s Eve swims where you can barely find a patch of open water.

The pool is definitely the most popular recreation facility in town. There was a great deal of people upset about the delays with the renovation but that’s all behind us now. Makes me think of the old song, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.